Farm Ireland

Saturday 23 March 2019

'Serious, serious trouble' on the horizon as drought bites hard

Teagasc advisor Adrian O'Callaghan talking to farmers at the Drought Clinic event in Mallow about the benefits of concentrate supplements
Teagasc advisor Adrian O'Callaghan talking to farmers at the Drought Clinic event in Mallow about the benefits of concentrate supplements

Martin Ryan

Ensuring adequate water supply for livestock and planning forward to minimise the expected deficit in fodder supply for the winter are the key priorities now on drought-stricken farms, according to Teagasc.

"All animals need access to fresh clean water at all times and should never be left without water" in the heat-wave, advisors stressed as the Teagasc Farmer Clinic Roadshow was rolled out nationwide last week.

Early planning to buy in replacement winter feed, reducing stock numbers as soon as possible and arranging for "Bed and Breakfast" stock over the winter were some of the solutions discussed to cope with an expected huge deficit in winter fodder supplies on thousands of farms.

Twenty-seven clinics on coping with the drought are being held countrywide, and Teagasc has set up a help line - 087 797 1377 operating from 9am to 9pm each day - for farmers to speak to an advisor regarding options for feeding stock given the continuing decline in grass growth rates throughout the country.

At one of the first clinics at the GAA Complex in Ballyclough, near Mallow, Co Cork, Teagasc's Tim Doody warned of "serious, serious, trouble" as a consequence of inadequate fresh water for dairy cows .

There is a requirement for 2,700 gallons/day for a 100-cow herd - of which they will consume 50pc during the first three hours of the day - "and no animal can be restricted from water".

If concentrate feeding is introduced to compensate for loss of grass, water intake will increase further.

"If you check three hours after the cows go to grass and the water troughs are empty you are in trouble, because the supply is not adequate and you need a second trough - they are not getting enough water," he stressed.

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"Check the flow rate of your piping. If it takes a minute to fill 10 litres you are in serious, serious, trouble and you must provide an additional water source."

Adequate frequency of troughs was also stressed "because the cows will not walk more than 250m to water" and troughs should be checked twice a day for any blockages on the supply or a ball-cock not operating properly.

Slurry tank carriers of drinking water were not recommended unless they are "very, very clean" because the animals will not drink it.

Farmers with their own private water supply were reminded that the water must be tested to meet the requirement of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance.

James Fleming advised against spreading slurry under present conditions, as it is likely to remain on the ground for a prolonged period.

He advised spreading CAN-based fertiliser, not Urea or KAN, in front of cows on to grass cover, with a better prospect for response because of the moisture present. The grazed paddocks that are brown need at least 25mm of rain before any response can be expected. Spread 30-40 units when rain returns and meantime the fertiliser rule is 'go' if it is green, 'no' if it is brown.

Adrian O'Callaghan outlined the benefits of supplementing diet with soya hulls, or palm kernal but warned that stocks within the country are down to less than two weeks' supply. such is the demand.

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